In poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, the voice of folk is yet to resonate. The artists that remained busy singing praises for political parties and seeking votes for their candidates, are still awaiting the parties’ call. And thus what used to be a festive season, is a dull period for the folk fraternity.
Artists say that folk has been badly hit ever since Bollywood voices were roped in for election campaigns. Add to it, demonetisation and checks by the election commission, the business is almost negligible for artistes this time.
Octogenarian Mohan Swaroop Bhatia of Mathura who has been an integral part of numerous election campaigns over the years in Uttar Pradesh said, “I remember the times when we used to be an integral part of poll campaigns. Artists would move out with their set ups on bullock carts covering village after village and singing their compositions for various political parties. But that is a thing of past now. Folk art seem to have lost its charm among political parties.”
Another folk singer from Varanasi, Deepak who would remain deeply involved in composing songs for political parties’ election campaign said, “When parties are ready to spend money on big Bollywood singers and are getting their jingles and songs sung by them, why would they come to us?”
Artists lament that even in rural areas, campaigning has gone more digital and that’s what seems to be working well both for the parties and voters.
“There are audios and videos being circulated on WhatsApp and facebook by political parties. The youngsters have the party songs sung by Bollywood artists on their mobile phones and it is these CDs that are played at the time of campaigning. In such a case, our performances have been hit,” said Vandana Mishra, a leading folk artist of the state.
“Maximum campaigning material, be it songs, singles or slogans are being designed by the cultural team in Delhi. It is the same material that is being used here,” said an office bearer of Bharatiya Janata Party.
While the charm for folk seems to have diminished among other parties and they have gone more digital with their campaigning, Samajwadi Party’s cultural wing is still active. However, the family feud and confusion over the party’s division and its symbol has left the folk artists idle till now.
Paras Nath Yadav, member of cultural committee of the party said, “Our songs of achievement are almost ready. As soon as the symbol issue is solved, we would go ahead with our performances.”
Yadav says that Samajwadi Party’s poll meetings and public addresses are always accompanied by folk performances. However, demonetisation has had an impact on the income of artists.
“We would easily get around 50,000 for performances at a gathering that was to be addressed by Netaji or Akhilesh Yadav. But demonetisation has hit it badly,” said Paras Nath Yadav, who hails from Ghazipur and has been known for his Bhojpuri renditions.
Political parties are yet to announce their final lists of candidates. This is what has left a ray of hope for artists.
“There are some candidates who use folk music for campaigning in their constituencies. This has some opportunities for us. We have our songs ready and would sell them to candidates who are willing,” said Chaman Lal, a folk artist from Sultanpur.